Church Buried for a Millennium by Earthquake Reopens

A 1,500-year-old church that had been buried for more than one thousand years has reopened to the public. The sixth-century church of Santa Maria Antiqua is located in the ancient Roman Forum at the bottom of the Palatine Hill. It was buried under rubble by an earthquake in 847 AD and was only rediscovered in 1900 during archaeological excavations. It has taken more than 30 years to restore its exquisite interior which is decorated with multi-colored frescoes of saints, martyrs, angels and emperors. Among the most significant frescoes is a depiction of the Virgin Mary with child – one of the oldest known Christian icons in the world. After the ninth century earthquake it was moved to another church in Rome, but it has now been returned to Santa Maria Antiqua. The church was built inside a vast complex of Roman buildings which were constructed in the first century AD under the rule of the Emperor Domitian. The restoration project was funded by the Italian government and the World Monuments Fund.

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